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Thyroid Cancer Treatment

Thyroid Cancer Treatment: Follow-up Care

Follow-up care after treating thyroid cancer is an important part of the overall treatment plan. Regular checkups ensure that any changes in health are noted so that problems can be found and treated as soon as possible. Checkups may include:
 
  • A physical exam
  • X-rays and other imaging tests (such as a nuclear medicine scan)
  • Laboratory tests (such as a blood test for calcitonin).
 
After their treatment for thyroid cancer, patients will need to be tested to monitor the level of thyroglobulin in their blood. Thyroid hormone is stored in the thyroid as thyroglobulin and if the thyroid has been removed, there should be very little or no thyroglobulin in the blood. A high level of thyroglobulin may mean that thyroid cancer cells have returned.
 
Six weeks prior to the thyroglobulin test, patients will need to stop taking their usual thyroid pills. Some patients may take a different, shorter-lasting thyroid hormone pill during this time. However, two weeks before the test, all patients will need to stop taking any type of thyroid hormone pill. Without adequate levels of thyroid hormone, patients are likely to:
 
  • Feel uncomfortable
  • Experience weight gain
  • Feel very tired.
 
After the test, patients may continue taking their usual treatment with thyroid hormone pills.
 
Another test that doctors may recommend during follow-up care is an I-131 scan (diagnostic I-131 whole body scan) of the entire body. This scan is used to detect thyroid cancer cells anywhere in the body. Patients must stop taking thyroid hormone pills for a short time (usually six weeks) prior to this scan. After the test, doctors will tell the patient when to start taking thyroid hormone pills again.
 
(Click Radioactive Iodine for Thyroid Cancer for more information.)
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